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Lampstand or Candlestick

Early Byzantine
602 - 610 (stamps of Phocas)
21.2 cm (8 3/8 in.)

On view


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Base from below
Additional Image Base from below
Base from below

Excavated in Antioch in a fragmentary state and restored, this lampstand or candlestick rests upon three feet, which support a flaring base of petal-shaped aprons. Above, a baluster topped with a disk ends with a four-sided spike known as a pricket. This would have fit into the four-sided sleeve in the base of a metal oil-lamp, known from numerous extant examples in bronze. Alternatively, it might have been used to stabilize a candle, a source of domestic lighting just coming into use in seventh-century Byzantium. Comfortably grasped about the baluster and carried, the stand is portable and would have allowed the source of light to be moved easily from place to place. Its size suggests that it was meant to be placed on a table or in a niche.

Impressed on the underside of the base are traces of five control stamps, with which many Byzantine silver objects were marked between the late-fifth and mid-seventh centuries. This system of stamps may have been reserved for objects of high silver content, as the state attempted to control the trade of precious metals, or, the state may have mass-produced these objects in imperial workshops, stamping them during production to authorize their sale.

Typically applied before an object was fully finished, stamps often provide the only information regarding date and place of origin. One of the stamps on this stand bears a partial inscription referring to the city of Antioch; a more complete inscription designating the city also appears on a similarly-stamped silver lamp in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Thus, this stand was likely created in Antioch during the reign of Emperor Phocas (602-610), whose partial monogram appears beside one of the control stamps. Additionally, two very similar stands are now in the British Museum and the Byzantine Museum in Athens, dated to the mid-sixth and early seventh centuries, respectively, which were stamped in Constantinople. The close resemblance in size, shape and weight among these three objects, despite their different sites of manufacture, suggests some form of standardized, state-controlled production.

- S. Zwirn

The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University, Handbook of the Collection (Washington, D.C., 1946), 53, no. 104.

M. C. Ross, "A Small Byzantine Treasure found at Antioch-on-the-Orontes," Archaeology 5 (1952): 30-32.

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 55, no. 130.

R. J. Gettens and C. L. Waring, "The Composition of Some Ancient Persian and Other Near Eastern Silver Objects," Ars Orientalis 2 (1957): 83-90, esp. 89, no. 20.

E. C. Dodd, Byzantine Silver Stamps, Dumbarton Oaks Studies 7 (Washington, D.C., 1961), 251, no. 90.

M. C. Ross, Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Vol. 1, Metalwork, Ceramics, Glass, Glyptics, Painting (Washington, D.C., 1962), 20-21, no. 15, pl. 18.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 21-22, no. 74.

M. Mundell Mango, "The Purpose and Places of Byzantine Silver Stamping," in Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., eds. S. A. Boyd and M. M. Mango (Washington, D.C., 1992), 203-24, 212, fig. 5.

C. Kondoleon, ed., Antioch: The Lost Ancient City, exh. cat. Worcester Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art (Princeton, 2000), 187, no. 70.

M. Mundell Mango, "Three Illuminating Objects in the Lampsacus Treasure," in Through a Glass Brightly: Studies in Byzantine and Medieval Art and Archaeology Presented to David Buckton (Oxford, 2003), 64 and fig. 9.6.

D. Buckton, Byzantium: Treasures of Byzantine Art and Culture from British Collections, exhibition catalogue, British Museum, (London, 1994), 84, 85.

G. Bühl, ed., Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections (Washington, D.C., 2008), 54, pl. p. 55.

Exhibition History
Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, "A Selection of Ivories, Bronzes, Metalwork and Other Objects from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection," Nov. 15 - Dec. 31, 1945.

Worcester, Mass., Worcester Art Museum, "Antioch: The Lost Ancient City," Oct. 7, 2000 - Feb. 4, 2001. Also, Cleveland Museum of Art, Mar. 18 - June 3, 2001, and Baltimore Museum of Art, Sept. 16 - Dec. 30, 2001.

Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, "Scattered Evidence: Excavating Antioch-on-the-Orontes," April 7-October 10, 2010.

Acquisition History
Excavated in Antioch by the Antioch Expedition, season (May) 1938: sector 17-P (field no. b357-S16).

Partial share,1938, of excavated finds and purchases from Antioch allotted to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss as members of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its Vicinity.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., 1938-1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., November, 1940.

Baluster | Flaring | Hallmarks